A procedure using a topical solution and laser treatment stimulates collagen production and helps rejuvenate sun-damaged skin, US researchers say.
Their study confirmed the value of a procedure already being performed by some doctors to improve the appearance of skin with wrinkles, fine lines and “sun spots”, and helps explain how it works.
University of Michigan researchers tested photodynamic therapy that combines a clear solution, made by DUSA Pharmaceuticals and called Levulan, which is dabbed onto the skin to increase its sensitivity to light, and so-called pulsed dye laser treatment using brief flashes of a single wavelength of light.
In a group of 15 women and 10 men aged 54 to 83 with sun-damaged skin, the researchers found that the therapy increased production of collagen – a protein that helps provide skin its texture and elasticity – and promoted the thickening of the top layer of the skin.
“We do believe that the treatment would, in fact, improve the appearance of patients’ skin,” Dr Jeffrey Orringer, director of the University of Michigan’s Cosmetic Dermatology and Laser Center, said.
“It lends molecular or scientific credibility to a procedure that’s being done out there, and it’s also the first step in understanding how to make this treatment more effective,” Orringer said.
No industry money was used to fund the study published in the journal Archives of Dermatology, Orringer said.
The researchers performed the procedure on sun-damaged forearm skin of the 25 volunteers and took tissue samples to examine the changes in the skin.
Many people are eager to improve the appearance of skin damaged by years of sunbathing or other exposure to the sun.
Photodynamic therapy currently being performed, often on the face, can cost hundreds of dollars, Orringer said.
The US Food and Drug Administration approved Levulan in 1999 to treat precancerous skin lesions of the face or scalp called actinic keratoses. It is also used “off-label” in photodynamic therapy to make sun-damaged skin look better.
Collagen production was twice as great with Levulan plus laser treatment compared to laser treatment alone, he said.
The laser treatment feels like a rubber band snapping on the skin, but is less painful than laser tattoo removal, Orringer said.